SALEM, OREGON: The first national vote-by-mail Senate election was a close one: Congressman Wyden beat conservative millionaire Gordon Smith by just one percent to become Oregon's first Democratic Senator in nearly 30 years. The election was closely watched, in part because the winner would take the place of Bob Packwood, who resigned in disgrace last fall amid a messy public battle over charges of sexual harassment. Oregonians began mailing in their ballots three weeks ago, an election process that had never been tried when such an important office was at stake. "What this means nationally," says TIME's Laurence Barrett, "is that it's the first really good news at the ballot box that the Democrats have had in more than two years. It should encourage Democratic campaign donors and also help talent scouts who are trying to recruit good candidates to run on the Democratic line for Congress later this year." Wyden's own conclusion: "Oregonians are saying that this Congress is too extreme on a number of key issues . . . It certainly ought to be a wake-up call to Republicans on issues such as the environment, a woman's right to choose and putting some balance in the balanced budget."